Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene. The noble Lord said that all these issues would have been considered before the certificate was issued. That is not stated on the face of the Bill and I am sure that he could go some way towards reassuring the House. Perhaps between now and Third Reading he can devise some words which would require the Secretary of State to go through all the considerations of proportionality which we have discussed prior to issuing the certificate.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, we are not in non-listening mode and every suggestion we can make sense of we will consider. I take it as axiomatic that those considerations will be in the mind of the Home Secretary before he issues the certificate. It is not a question merely of signing the certificate because someone says, XThis person is not bona fide". We will look at the case. On the other hand, if there is anything we can do with the wording to meet that point if it is not implicit, we shall do so.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords—

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am not going to be able to get to Amendment No. 35 and I have got something good to say about it.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I am sorry, carry on.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I want only to comment on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. Clause 35 as drafted looks as though it is free-standing. There is nothing in it which directly connects it to Clause 34. As a lay person and not a lawyer—we have to take advice on these matters—I would be happier if it were connected to Clause 34 in an explicit way if that can be done. It is not our intention to abuse the legislation. We are examining it between now and Third Reading or before the Bill returns to the other place.

I do not believe that we can return to the original drafting of the clauses. They were separated for clarity, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said. However, if there is a way of connecting them which retains the policy objectives so that people can be assured that Clause 35 would not be abused—no one has said that but the implication is that if Clause 35 were free-standing it could be applied in other circumstances—

6 Dec 2001 : Column 1045

we shall consider that. It is contained in the Bill for the reason which applies to all the other provisions. If we can find a way of tying Clause 35 into Clause 34 which does not cause us problems with policy objectives, we shall examine that. I had discussions with officials before the debate took place.

Furthermore, I reiterate the point I made about the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. The rules and procedure under which the Home Secretary would issue a certificate would cover those points and if there were any way in which we could achieve additional clarification we would certainly consider it.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I believe that all noble Lords are grateful to the Minister for his response to the debate thus far. Speaking also as a layman, the point at issue is that in the view of many noble Lords the House is dealing with rushed legislation which is not entirely clear. If the Minister can somehow meet some of the points raised in a way that draws Clauses 34 and 35 together and reassure noble Lords about how the legislation will be put into practice, it will go a long way to meet the concerns expressed so far.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I can only reiterate what I have said. We are actively looking at one of the two points anyway, and, given the way the matter has been raised, we shall see whether we can do something about the other. It is not our intention to send out the wrong signals or to build Fortress Britain. Our aim is to ensure that the rules under which we implement the convention are not abused by others who have the kind of background that is implicit in what we have said.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I should very much like consideration to be given to those two points. If the Minister can communicate with us before Third Reading it will give those noble Lords who disagree with him an opportunity to move the appropriate amendments. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 35 [Construction]:

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Destruction of fingerprints]:

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 36:


    Leave out Clause 36.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, while we accept that in relation to asylum seekers suspected of involvement in terrorism the keeping of fingerprints may be justified, we do not accept that it is justified in relation to the 99 per cent of innocent refugees. Therefore, the clause should be restricted to those to which Clause 21 applies. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I can only repeat that, while it may not apply to 99 per cent of cases, the

6 Dec 2001 : Column 1046

provision allows for the retention for 10 years of certain fingerprints taken in asylum and immigration cases which were previously destroyed once the matter had been dealt with. Since 1993 all asylum seekers have been fingerprinted. The process is now digitalised and there is a good deal of technology involved in it. If an asylum seeker wins his case and becomes a refugee he is no longer an asylum seeker and his fingerprints will ordinarily be destroyed. If an individual fails to become a refugee his fingerprints are retained. Cases have arisen in which people have become refugees and reapplied as asylum seekers to create different identities with new passports and new social security numbers, for whatever reason.

As I believe I said at Second Reading, on my first visit to Croydon someone was picked up following an intervention. This clause is a precautionary measure and does not affect anyone. The power arises only if someone has already been fingerprinted under one identity and turns up to make another claim for asylum. It beggars belief but it happens. With the available technology, even a small number of cases can be prevented. For that reason, we believe that the clause should remain in the Bill.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the Minister gave that example on a previous occasion. The number of cases that we are talking about is very low. However, in view of the lateness of the hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 [Forfeiture of terrorist cash]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 37:


    Page 1, line 9, leave out Xa magistrates' court" and insert Xthe High Court"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I realise that we are operating under a fairly tight time schedule and so I shall speak only to those amendments that I consider to be of particular importance. As to the group of amendments led by Amendment No. 37, here we are concerned with the appropriate court in which to make an application for a restraint of cash order and, subsequently, a forfeiture order. We recognise the need for such a procedure. However, as I said in Committee, the magistrates would be faced with difficult questions of fact and law. We believe that the nature and complexity of those questions require the skills of a High Court Chancery judge. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I respect what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and so I, too, shall be brief. However, if I had realised that this matter would be raised again on Report, I would have asked all the Members of this House who are magistrates to be

6 Dec 2001 : Column 1047

present at what is a fundamental attack on the competence of magistrates. I think that I should have said that the last time round.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to intervene.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I remind the noble Lord that we are at the Report stage.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, perhaps I may say with enormous respect to the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip that I was very brief in my opening remarks. I simply want to say that one of the consequences of House of Lords reform is that very few active magistrates are left in your Lordships' House.

Lord McNally: My Lords, we are approaching the hour that I warned the noble Lord about some 12 hours ago.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I want to support the magistrates because I have good friends who are magistrates. Further, I want to make the point that this is not a cheap exercise, for the reason that I shall give. Since 1991, in the drugs-related cash scheme, for which proceedings are always held in magistrates' courts, we have seen no evidence of any problems. No such problems have been adduced in the Chamber tonight. Indeed, last year some #4.5 million worth of drug-related cash was forfeited via the magistrates' courts. That is not a cheap point; #4.5 million worth of positive credit has been achieved by the work going on in the magistrates' courts.

The new provisions should assist the magistrates in determining whether cash sums represent the proceeds of terrorism. Previously magistrates would have needed to work that out for themselves. These matters are suitable for magistrates' courts because the issues at stake are generally straightforward. We think that moving the scheme to the High Court would undermine it. Further, as I said on the last occasion, it would increase the expense of running the scheme and might cause problems as regards meeting the 48-hour deadline for the first hearing.

I am sorry to be so negative in response to the noble Lord on this matter. However, the issues are the same and thus the reply must be the same.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page